Asthma – Recognition and treatment
We have all heard it before.. We have all come across it, at one stage or another and everyone knows someone who suffers with Asthma. But, as a qualified First Aider… What can we do to prevent worsening and promote recovery?
To treat Asthma, we must first understand it. Asthma was misunderstood for many years due to the numerous stimuli which can cause an attack. It goes way back to 100 AD where it was treated with owl’s blood in wine by the ancient Greeks… Even at the beginning of the 20th century, it was seen as a psychosomatic disease where the child’s wheezing was considered a suppressed cry for his or her mother. Psychoanalysts thought that patients with asthma should be treated for depression. It was not until the 1960’s when anti-inflammatory medications began being used.
An asthma attack is a reaction in the lungs which can be triggered by dust, tobacco smoke, exercise, stress or infection. The muscles surrounding the windpipe in the lungs go into spasm and constrict which makes it very difficult for the casualty breathe. Those suffering from an Asthma attack can often be found grasping at their neck as seen in the picture above.
More often than not, asthma suffers will carry medication in the form of an inhaler around with them. Double check with the casualty but the blue inhaler is most likely for emergencies. It opens the wind-pipe, to relieve the pressure and allows the casualty to breathe.
As a First Aider we cannot stress how important it is for you to remain calm and reassured. An asthma attack is a very traumatic experience and the casualty does need your help. Sit down with them. Re-assure them and make them as comfortable as possible.
One of our expert First Aid trainers uses a special technique when teaching asthma recognition and treatment. “Asthma is so common, those that dont suffer from the illness cannot grasp how awful it is to experience an attack” says Ms Wilson. She asks everyone to stand behind their individual chairs, hands each person a straw and asks them only to breathe through the straw in deep long breaths. She then asks them to run around the room continuing to breathe in and out through the straw. “As the students get more tired, their breathing rate increases, but the rate at which they can physically inhale that oxygen is limited to the diameter of the straw.” This gives those that dont suffer with the illness the smallest chance to experience what living with asthma might be like…
So how do we know if a casualty is having an asthma attack?
• Difficulty breathing
• Difficulty speaking
• Grey or pale blue lips and skin
• Pale, clammy skin
• Wheezy breath sounds originating from the lungs
How do you treat someone suffering from an Asthma attack ?
• Help them to find and use their reliever inhaler
• Distract the casualty away from immediate scenario with light conversation.
• Call 999 for EMEREGENCY help if the casualty does not have their inhaler or if it having no effect.
• Do NOT take the casualty outside for some fresh air. Cold winter air can make the attack worse.
• Keep the casualty upright and awake. Only lay the casualty down if they become deeply unconscious.
More information on Asthma can be found on on Asthma UK site